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George E. "Bud" Day
Born (1925-02-24)February 24, 1925
Sioux City, Iowa, U.S.
Died July 27, 2013(2013-07-27) (aged 88)
Fort Walton Beach, Florida, U.S.
Place of burial Barrancas National Cemetery,
Pensacola, Florida, U.S.
New Area, Sec. 51, #30
  • Troy State University, J.D.
  • Morningside College, D.H.L.
  • St. Louis University, Master of Arts
  • University of South Dakota, J.D.
  • Morningside College, B.S.
Religion Lutheranism
Military career
Allegiance United States
Years of service 1942–77
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Commands held 416 fighter sq-patch.jpg Det 1 416th TFS
Other work Author, Return with Honor
Partner, Day and Meade Law Firm

George Everett "Bud" Day (February 24, 1925 – July 27, 2013) was a United States Air Force colonel and pilot who served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, including five years and seven months as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Day was a recipient of the Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross, As of 2014 the only person to be awarded both medals.

Day's actions from August 26, 1967, through March 14, 1973, were the last to earn a Medal of Honor prior to the end of U.S. involvement in the war on April 30, 1975 – though some honorees (e.g. Leslie H. Sabo, Jr., honored on May 16, 2012) have been cited for their Medal after Day's recognition on March 4, 1976.

Early life and education

Day was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on February 24, 1925. In 1942, he dropped out of Central High School and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC).[1]

After the war, Day attended Morningside College on the G.I. Bill, earning a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by law school at the University of South Dakota, receiving a Juris Doctor. Day passed the bar exam in 1949 and was admitted to the bar in South Dakota. In later life, Day was also awarded a Master of Arts degree from Saint Louis University, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Morningside, and a Doctor of Laws from Troy State University. Day was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1977.

Military career

Enlisting in the USMC on December 10, 1942, Day served 30 months in the North Pacific during World War II as a member of a 5-inch gun battery with the 3rd Defense Battalion on Johnston Island, but he never saw combat. He was discharged (the first time) on November 24, 1945.[1]

On December 11, 1946, Day joined the Army Reserve, serving until December 10, 1949. On May 17, 1950, Day received a direct commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Iowa Air National Guard. He was called to active duty on March 15, 1951 for Undergraduate Pilot Training in the U.S. Air Force. He was awarded his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas in September 1952, continuing through December 1952 in All-Weather Interceptor School and Gunnery School.[1]

From February 1953 to August 1955 during the Korean War, Day served two tours as a fighter-bomber pilot, flying the Republic F-84 Thunderjet in the 559th Strategic Fighter Squadron. Promoted to captain, he decided to make the Air Force a career and was augmented into the Regular Air Force. He was assigned to the 55th Fighter Bomber Squadron. He then trained to fly the F-100 Super Sabre in 1957 while stationed at RAF Wethersfield in the United Kingdom through June 1959. It was during this time that he had to bail out of a jet fighter without a parachute, becoming the first person ever to live through such a feat.[1]

Day was Assistant Professor of Aerospace Science at the Air Force ROTC detachment at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, from June 1959 to August 1963.[1]

Anticipating retirement in 1968 and now a major, Day volunteered for a tour in Vietnam and was assigned to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa Air Base in April 1967. At that time, he had more than 5,000 flying hours, with 4,500 of them in fighters. On June 25, 1967, with extensive previous service flying two tours in F-100s, Major Day was made the first commander of Detachment 1, 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 37th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Phu Cat Air Base.[2][3] Under the project name "Commando Sabre", twin-seat USAF F-100Fs were evaluated as a Fast Forward Air Control ("Fast FAC") aircraft in high threat areas, given that F-4 Phantom II aircraft were in high demand for strike and Combat Air Patrol (CAP) roles. Using the call sign Misty, the name of Day's favorite song, his detachment of four two-seat F-100Fs and 16 pilots became pioneer "Fast FACs" (Forward Air Controllers) over Laos and North Vietnam. All Misty FAC crews were volunteers with at least 100 combat missions in Vietnam and 1,000 minimum flight hours. Tours in Commando Sabre were temporary and normally limited to four months or about 50-60 missions.

Prisoner of war

On August 26, 1967, Major Day was flying F-100F-15-NA, AF Serial No. 56-3954, call sign "Misty 01",[4] on his 26th Fast FAC sortie, directing a flight of F-105 Thunderchiefs in an air strike against a surface-to-air missile (SAM) site north of Thon Cam Son[5] and west of Dong Hoi, 20 mi (32 km) north of the DMZ in North Vietnam. Day was on his 65th mission into North Vietnam and acting as check pilot for Captain Corwin M. "Kipp" Kippenhan, who was upgrading to aircraft commander. 37 mm antiaircraft fire crippled the aircraft, forcing the crew to eject. In the ejection, Day's right arm was broken in three places when he struck the side of the cockpit, and he also received eye and back injuries.

Kippenhan was rescued by a USAF HH-3E, but Day was unable to contact the rescue helicopter by survival radio and was quickly captured by North Vietnamese local militia. On his fifth night, when he was still within 20 mi (32 km) of the DMZ, Day escaped from his initial captors despite his serious injuries. Although stripped of both his boots and flight suit, Day crossed the Demilitarized Zone back into South Vietnam, becoming the only U.S. prisoner of war to escape from North Vietnam. Within 2 mi (3 km) of the U.S. Marine firebase at Con Thien and after 12–15 days of evading, he was captured again, this time by a Viet Cong patrol that wounded him in the leg and hand with gunfire.

Taken back to his original camp, Day was tortured for escaping, breaking his right arm again. He then was moved to several prison camps near Hanoi, where he was periodically beaten, starved, and tortured. In December 1967, Day shared a cell with Navy Lieutenant Commander and future Senator and presidential candidate John McCain. Air Force Major Norris Overly nursed both back to health, and McCain later devised a makeshift splint of bamboo and rags that helped heal Day's seriously atrophied arm.[6]

On March 14, 1973, Day was released after five years and seven months as a North Vietnamese prisoner. Within three days Day was reunited with his wife, Doris Sorensen Day, and four children at March Air Force Base, California. On March 4, 1976, President Gerald Ford awarded Day the Medal of Honor for his personal bravery while a captive in North Vietnam.

Day had been promoted to Colonel while a prisoner, and decided to remain in the Air Force in hopes of being promoted to Brigadier General. Although initially too weak to resume operational flying, he spent a year in physical rehabilitation and with 13 separate medical waivers, was returned to active flying status. He underwent conversion training to the F-4 Phantom II and was appointed vice commander of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Day, in 2008, said of his imprisonment, "As awful as it sounds, no one could say we did not do well. ...[Being a POW] was a major issue in my life and one that I am extremely proud of. I was just living day to day. One bad cold and I would have been dead."[7]


After being passed over for nomination to brigadier general, Day retired from active duty in 1977 to resume practicing law in Florida. At his retirement he had nearly 8,000 total flying hours, 4,900 in single engine jets, and had flown the F-80 Shooting Star, F-84 Thunderjet, F-100 Super Sabre, F-101 Voodoo, F-104 Starfighter, F-105 Thunderchief, F-106 Delta Dart, F-4 Phantom II, A-4 Skyhawk, A-7 Corsair II, CF-5 Tiger and F-15 Eagle jet fighters.

Following his retirement, Day wrote an autobiographical account of his experiences as a prisoner of war, Return with Honor, followed by Duty, Honor, Country, which updated his autobiography to include his post-Air Force years. Among other endeavors, in 1996 Day filed a class action lawsuit for breach of contract against the United States government on behalf of military retirees who were stripped of their military medical care benefits at age 65 and told to apply for Medicare. Although winning the case in the district court in 2001, the judgment against the U.S. was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2002. The U.S. Congress later redressed this situation by establishing the "TRICARE For Life" (TFL) program, which restored TRICARE military medical benefits for career military retirees over the age of 65, making the retirees eligible for both programs with Medicare as the primary payer and TRICARE as the secondary payer.

Political activity and controversy

Day was an active member of the Florida Republican Party, was involved in the 527 group Swift Vets and POWs for Truth,[8] and campaigned with John McCain in 2000 and 2008.[9][10][11] In the months leading up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Day appeared in television advertisements—along with other members of the 527 group Swift Vets and POWs for Truth—decrying John Kerry's anti-war activities following his military service during the Vietnam War and declaring him "unfit" for service and of a "dishonest" disposition for comments and actions made by Kerry after the Vietnam War, including his testimony before Congress in Washington, D.C.[12][13][14] During a 2008 teleconference with reporters from the Miami Herald, Day made comments regarding John McCain's stance on the Iraq War, stating that "I don't intend to kneel, and I don't advocate to anybody that we kneel, and John [McCain] doesn't advocate to anybody that we kneel." Also during this interview he sparked controversy by making a broad generalization about what some saw as an ideological divide between Islam and America: "the Muslims have said either we kneel, or they're going to kill us."[15][16][17][18][19] In the same interview when questioned about the role of 527 organizations in contemporary American politics, particularly his work for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Day stated "the bottom line is this: 527 groups can do very effective, truthful things, and the Swift Boat attack was totally truthful."[20]

Personal life and death

Day lived in Shalimar, Florida. He had fourteen grandchildren and was a member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.[21]

Day died on July 27, 2013 surrounded by family at his home in Shalimar.[22] He was buried on August 1 at Barrancas National Cemetery at NAS Pensacola, Florida, U.S. (New Area, Sec. 51, Grave 30; 30°21′30″N 87°17′39″W / 30.35847°N 87.29415°W / 30.35847; -87.29415).[23]

John McCain, Day's prisoner-of-war cellmate, said on Day's passing, "He was the bravest man I ever knew, and his fierce resistance and resolute leadership set the example for us in prison of how to return home with honor."[7]


A number of structures have been named after Day. On March 14, 1997, the new Survival School Building at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, was named in his honor. In 2002, the Sioux City, Iowa, airport was renamed Sioux Gateway Airport/Colonel Bud Day Field. On May 7, 2010, Day Manor, a Visiting Officers Quarters (VOQ) at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, was dedicated in his honor. A section of Florida State Road 397 just outside of Eglin Air Force Base was named "Col. Bud Day Boulevard" on October 12, 2010.[24]

On January 4, 2008, Day was awarded the Freedom Communications Spirit of Freedom Award on behalf of the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Awards and decorations

As of 2014 Day was the only person ever to have been awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross. He is widely considered to be the most-decorated Airman in history.[25][26]

Medal of Honor citation

Airforce moh.jpg

Rank and organization: Colonel (then Major), U.S. Air Force, Forward Air Controller Pilot of an F-100 aircraft.

Place and date: North Vietnam, August 26, 1967.
Entered service at: Sioux City, Iowa.
Born: February 24, 1925, Sioux City, Iowa.
General Orders: GB-180, March 22, 1976[25]

Citation: On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Col. Day's conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.[27]

Air Force Cross citation

The Air Force Cross is presented to George Everett Day, Colonel, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 16 July 1969 to 14 October 1969. During this period, Colonel Day was subjected to maximum punishment and torture by Vietnamese guards to obtain a detailed confession of escape plans, policies, and orders of the American senior ranking officer in the camp, and the communications methods used by the Americans interned in the camp. Colonel Day withstood this punishment and gave nothing of value to the Vietnamese, although he sustained many injuries and open wounds to his body. Through his extraordinary heroism and willpower, in the face of the enemy, Colonel Day reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
General Orders: Department of the Air Force, Special Orders GB-1152, (October 29, 1974)[25][28]

Badges and awards

Width-44 crimson ribbon with a pair of width-2 white stripes on the edges
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 scarlet ribbon with width-4 ultramarine blue stripe at center, surrounded by width-1 white stripes. Width-1 white stripes are at the edges.
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 purple ribbon with width-4 white stripes on the borders
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Width-44 yellow ribbon with central width-4 Old Glory blue-white-scarlet stripe. At distance 6 from the edges are width-6 white-scarlet-white stripes.
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
Silver star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver oak leaf cluster

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "George E. Day". Retrieved 2013-08-04. 
  2. Nophsker, Gary (Misty 128). "Misty Unofficial History". Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  3. [1]
  4. Hobson, Chris, "Vietnam Air Losses", Midland Publishing, Hinckley, UK, 2001, ISBN 1-85780-115-6, page 116.
  5. Vietnam Air Losses, Chris Hobson, Midland Publishing, Hinckley, UK, c2001, pp. 115-116, ISBN 1-85780-115-6
  6. Kaplan, Robert D. (2007-08-24). "Rereading Vietnam". The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 2008-10-31.  "Rereading Vietnam". Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 USA Today. "Medal of Honor recipient Bud Day, McCain's cellmate, dies". Gannett Company. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  8. "Obama defends his patriotism; McCain and Clark trade shots". Los Angeles Times. 2008-07-01.,0,2054836.story. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  9. Mitchell, Alison (1999-12-21). "Bush and McCain pointing to a big South Carolina clash". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  10. "No shying away from God talk in campaign". The Boston Globe. 1999-12-23. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  11. "Price of Power: McCain accepts ex-Swift Boaters' donations". USA Today. 2008-01-22. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  12. "Former POW criticizes Kerry". 2008-07-18. 
  13. "Any Questions (script)". SBVT website. 2004-10-12. Archived from the original on 2004-10-12. 
  14. "Any Questions (video)" (WMV). SBVT website. 2004-11-08. Archived from the original on 2004-10-11. 
  15. "McCain surrogate makes controversial muslim comment". CNN. 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  16. "McCain POW pal angers muslims". Miami Herald. 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-18. [dead link]
  17. "McCain backer Bud Day warns of muslim attempts to 'kill us'". Fox News. 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  18. "McCain POW bud: Muslims 'going to kill us'". 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  19. "Day teleconference (audio)". Miami Herald. 2008-07-18. 
  20. "McCain POW bud: Muslims 'going to kill us'". 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  21. Harrison, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. (16 February 2012). "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State.". 2012 Hearing on religious freedom. United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  22. "Col. Bud Day, Medal of Honor recipient, dies at 88". myfoxny. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  23. "Col George Evertt "Bud" Day (1925–2013)". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  24. McCurdy, Angel (October 12, 2010). "Road named in honor of Bud Day". Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Archived from the original on October 12, 2010. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 25.6 25.7 25.8 25.9 "Valor awards for George Everett "Bud" Day". Hall of Valor. Gannett / Military Times. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  26. "One of AF most decorated heroes passes away". United States Air Force. July 29, 2013. Archived from the original on July 29, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  27. "Medal of Honor recipients - Vietnam (A-L)". United States Army. July 16, 2007. Retrieved October 31, 2008. 
  28. "Home of Heroes". Retrieved August 26, 2012. 

External links

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